SHANGHAI/BEIJING (Reuters) -Chinese regulators stepped up efforts to encourage lenders to extend loans to qualified real estate projects as the beleaguered property sector faced fresh risks from a widening mortgage-payment boycott on unfinished houses.
The China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission (CBIRC) told the official industry newspaper on Sunday that banks should meet developers' financing needs where reasonable.
The CBIRC expressed confidence that with concerted efforts, "all the difficulties and problems will be properly solved," the China Banking and Insurance News reported.
The remarks come as a growing number of homebuyers across China threatened to stop making their mortgage payments for stalled property projects, aggravating a real estate crisis that has already hit the economy.
The latest news helped banking and property stocks recover some of their recent losses. China's banking index, which tumbled 7% to a more than two-year low last week, bounced 1.4% on Monday. Chinese real estate stocks gained 3.1% on the mainland, and jumped 3.7% in Hong Kong.
The rebound in Chinese banking stocks was also aided by news that China will accelerate the issuance of special local government bonds to help supplement the capital of small banks, part of efforts to reduce risks in the sector.
China may also allow homeowners to temporarily halt mortgage payments on stalled property projects without incurring penalties, Bloomberg reported after the market close on Monday, citing people familiar with the matter.
The report added that homeowner eligibility and the length of grace periods would be decided by local governments and banks, and the yet-to-be-finalised proposal from financial regulators would require approval from senior Chinese leaders.
HOPING FOR STABILITY
Official data on Friday showed output in the property sector shrank 7% in the second quarter from a year earlier, marking the fourth straight quarter of decline.
New real estate loans in June were expected at more than 150 billion yuan ($22.23 billion), compared with a contraction in May, state television CCTV reported on Monday.
"I think the Chinese government has the will and means to solve the problem, and will likely take swift actions," said Mark Dong, Hong Kong-based co-founder and general manager of Minority Asset Management.
"The biggest risk is impairment to consumer confidence, which threatens the nascent recovery in property sales."
Dong expects state-owned developers to step in and acquire troubled projects from heavily-indebted private peers, accelerating an industry consolidation.
The CBIRC vowed last Thursday to strengthen its coordination with other regulators to "guarantee the delivery of homes".
Already more than 200 projects have been affected by the mortgage boycott by homebuyers across the country, and at least 80 property developers are affected so far, E-house China Research and Development Institution said in a report published on Monday.
E-house estimated stalled real estate projects across China involve 900 billion yuan worth of mortgages in the first half, or 1.7% of the total outstanding mortgage loans.
In the Sunday interview, CBIRC urged banks to "shoulder social responsibility" and actively participate in the study of plans to fill the funding gap and support acquisitions of real estate projects.
The regulator hoped these steps would help stabilise the property market by enabling the swift resumption of stalled real estate construction and delivery of homes to buyers early.
Mainland property shares rebounded sharply in Hong Kong.
Country Garden Holdings Co jumped 6%, Guangzhou R&F Properties leapt 9% and KWG Group Holdings was up nearly 11%.
($1 = 6.7475 Chinese yuan)
(Reporting by Beijing and Shanghai newsroom; Additional reporting by Clare Jim in Hong Kong; Editing by Hugh Lawson, Shri Navaratnam and Jacqueline Wong)